By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
My MLB Dream Team (Part Two)
NEVADA (BASN) — It has been said time and time again that baseball is a game of inches and most importantly a game consumed with the little things. And in that respect, it makes for a difficult argument for the best team historically.
We started yesterday with some stats and offered some distinctive characteristics of each starting player, who comprise this wish list of an all-time team. Today, we focus on the overall pitching staff.
Tom Seaver – Starting Pitcher
‘Tom Terrific’ Throws R
The art of pitching was not lost on Seaver. When he made it to the major leagues in 1967, the baby-faced cherubic looking kid gave no indication of the dominating power pitcher he eventually became. Seaver also was a natural leader on a green, over-achieving NY Mets team that in 1969 miraculously went on to the win the World Series that year. Seaver’s accomplishments on the mound played no small part.
Seasons: 20 (1967-1986)
NY Mets – 1967-77; Cincinnati Reds 1978-82; NY Mets-1983; 1984-1986-ChicagoWhite Sox; 1986-Boston Red Sox
Inducted Baseball Hall of Fame – 1992
Career: ERA Wins Strike Outs
2.86 311 3640
12x All Star; 1967 Rookie of the Year; 1969 NL Cy Young Award; 1973 NL Cy Young Award; 1975 NL Cy Young Award: 1st in NL ERA – 1970-1973; 1st in NL Wins -1969 -25; 1st in NL Wins – 1975 – 22;
1st in NL Wins – 1981 -14; Most NL strikeouts – 1970, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1976;
1st in NL Complete Games – 1973 – 18; 1st NL Shutouts – 1977 – 7, 1979 – 5
World Series Champion – 1969 – NY Mets
Seaver thought his best season was in 1971 when he failed to win the Cy Young Award with a 20-10 record, 1.76 ERA and 283 strike outs. His lone no-hitter came while with Cincinnati when he blanked the Cardinals in June of 1978. And his high-water mark of 19 strikeouts in a 1970 game against the San Diego Padres tied the MLB record with pitcher Steve Carlton. Seaver’s pitching style, utilizing the power of his legs was highly thought of with many power pitchers who came after him, such as Roger Clemens.
Nolan Ryan – Starting Pitcher
‘Ryan Express’ Throws R
Nolan Ryan, in some peoples’ minds was a freak of nature, given the speed at which he could throw a baseball up until the end of his expansive career and into his 40′s. He remains the undisputed leader of most career strikeouts to this day, with 5,713. His power was exceptional, although he was known to be wild at times. So, players actually at times feared getting into the batter’s box. But his resilience and preparation were what allowed him to last 27 seasons; an absolutely stunning statistic for a starting power pitcher.
Seasons: 27 (1966-1993)
1966-1971 – NY Mets, 1972-1979 – California Angels, 1980-1988- Houston Astros,
1989-1993 Texas Rangers
Inducted Baseball Hall of Fame – 1999
Career: ERA Wins Strike Outs
3.19 324 5,714
Awards: 8x All Star; 1st AL Innings Pitched – 1974- 332.7; 1st NL ERA – 1981 – 1.691; 1987 – 2.764
12x 1st in Strikeouts per Inning; 1st in Strikeouts in AL – 10x; 1st in Strikeouts NL – 2x;
1st in AL Shutouts – 9x
World Series Champion – NY Mets 1969
Another record not soon to be broken is Ryan’s 7 no-hitters, with 2 in one season. And though a strikeout master, his one weakness was walks per inning at 4.5, which put fear in the eyes of many a batter. Yet, his overpowering 95 mph fastball served him well, into his 40′s, when he pitched 3 of his no-hitters.
From 1972-1974 Ryan struck out 300 hitters each season. And in 1974 his fastball was clocked at 100.9 mph on the radar gun. Most notably, Ryan became the only pitcher to record 2000 strikeouts or more in each major league. His portfolio defies description.
Steve Carlton – Starting Pitcher
‘Lefty’ Throws L
Perhaps it might come as a surprise to most fans that Steve Carlton was the second most winningest left-handed pitcher in MLB, behind Warren Spahn. And perhaps it might be related to his self-imposed boycott of the press for his last 8 years he played for the Philadelphia Phillies. He was one hard headed guy, which also most probably played a role in his indisputable success.
Inducted Baseball Hall of Fame 1994
Seasons: 24 (1965-1988)
1965-1971- St. Louis Cardinals, 1972-1986 – Philadelphia Phillies; 1986 – San Fran Giants & Chi White Sox,
1987 – Cleveland Indians & Minnesota Twins, 1988 – Minnesota Twins
Career: ERA Wins Strike Outs
3.22 329 4136
10x All Star; 4x NL Cy Young Award – 1972, 1977, 1980, 1982; NL Gold Glove – 1981- Pitcher;
5x NL 1st Innings Pitched- 1972, 1973, 1980, 1982, 1983; 3x 1st NL Wins- 1972, 1977, 1980;
3x 1st NL Complete Games- 1972-30, 1973-18, 1982-19; 6 20 Game Winning Seasons;
World Series Champion – St. Louis Cardinals 1967, Philadelphia Phillies 1980
With a crafty curveball to go along with his fastball, and an expert pickoff move to first, it seemed that Carlton was always evolving and looking to improve. In fact, Carlton was an innovator in conditioning through weight training; he was ahead of his time. He also developed a slider by mid-career, always readjusting. Carlton was one of the most consistent and successful pitchers of the 20th century. Looking back now, the press should have been celebrating his achievements, rather than to antagonize him. It was the fans’ loss to not have heard from him more.
Catfish Hunter – Starting Pitcher
‘Catfish’ Throws R
James Hunter, who affectionately became known throughout baseball during his playing career simply as Catfish, was so named by Oakland A’s owner, Charlie Finley, after Catfish made it to the major leagues. Catfish started out with the Kansas City A’s in 1964, never having played in the minors leagues, before the A’s moved to Oakland beginning in the 1968 season.
Seasons: 15 (1965-1979) 1965-1967 Kansas City A’s; 1968-1974- Oakland A’s; 1975-1979 NY Yankees
Inducted Baseball Hall of Fame – 1987
Career: ERA Wins Strike Outs
3.26 224 3012
8x All Star; 1974 1st AL ERA – 2.48; Perfect Game- 1968; Consecutive starts from 1965 to 1977; AL Cy Young Award – 1974; 2x most AL games won 1974-1975; pitched 200 innings or more – 1967-1976;
1st AL Complete Games -1975- 30; 300 Innings Pitched 1974-1975; Won 20 Games or more for 5 consecutive seasons – 1971-1975; 5x World Series Champion – Oakland A’s – 1972-1974;
NY Yankees – 1977-1978
Catfish Hunter’s accomplishments were none too few during his 15 seasons for both Oakland and the NY Yankees. But Catfish was the catalyst for the huge free agent multi-million dollars salaries we are are accustomed to seeing today for MLB’s elite players. And it was none other than George Steinbrenner, owner of the NY Yankees, who broke the bank and signed catfish to a $3.35 million contract for 5 years from 1975-1979. But in actuality free agency began with Curt Flood’s lawsuit against MLB regarding the reserve clause. And Andy Messersmith was the first player who realized the first free agent contract, when he signed a 3 year contract with the Atlanta Braves. Catfish won free agency on a technicality when A’s owner, Charlie Finley, failed to honor an insurance policy owed Hunter that was settled in arbitration and the end-result was giving Hunter free agency.
Catfish was not a flashy pitcher, nor an overpowering one. But he was overwhelmingly accurate as his accomplishments are well documented. According to then teammate, Lou Piniella, “Cat didn’t have overpowering stuff, but he knew how to pitch and how to beat you.”
Unfortunately, Catfish retired suddenly when he developed shoulder problems after the 1979 season and also left us too soon when he passed away at age 53 in 1999 from ALS, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. His teammates and friends always felt he was an even better human being than he was a pitcher.
Ron Guidry - Starting Pitcher
‘Louisiana Lightning a/k/a Gator’
Having hailed from Cajun country in Louisiana, like Catfish, who also came from humble beginnings in North Carolina, Ron Guidry was an unassuming player. His stature on the mound was considered diminutive for a big league starting pitcher at 5’11″ and 160 pounds. But he more than made up for it with a filthy slider which became his trademark pitch. His understated manner was in stark contrast to his explosiveness on the mound.
Seasons: 14 (1975-1988) NY Yankees
Career: ERA Wins Strike Outs
3.29 170 1178
Awards: AL Cy Young Award – 1978; 5x AL Gold Glove-Pitcher; 3x 20 win seasons; 4x All Star
2x AL ERA Leader-1978 (1.74), 1979 (2.78); 1st AL W/L% – 1978 (.893);
Most AL Wins-1978- 25 (25-3), 1986 – 22 (22-6); 2x 200 Strike Out Seasons – 1978, 1979; AL Shutout Leader 1978-5; World Champion – NY Yankees 1977, 1978
Although Ron Guidry’s career was not nearly as lengthy as most other pitchers of his ilk, his success was no less remarkable. In addition to being an overachieving pitcher, he was considered a fine athlete which earned him 5 gold gloves, and he even played left field for the NY Yankees twice. Warmly remembered by Yankee fans, he was embraced as the Yankees’ pitching coach from 2006-2007, under manager, Joe Torre.
Goose Gossage - Relief Pitcher
‘The Goose’ Throws R
Goose Gossage had a commanding, intimidating presence on the mound along with a raging fastball, when he came into a game to save it. But unlike today’s use of relievers, often he could be asked to pitch up to 3 innings while closing out games. Most of his appearances were more than an inning and in 1978 in his first year as the stopper for the NY Yankees, he pitched 134 innings; fourth highest number of innings on the entire pitching staff, while saving 27 games. Goose saved the infamous 1978 playoff game, which extended the regular season, between the Yankees and the Red Sox for the American League East title. And Bucky Blankin’ Dent gave Goose the incentive to do it.
Seasons: 22 (1972-1994) 1972-1976 – Chicago White Sox; 1977- Pittsburgh Pirates; 1978-1983 NY Yankees; 1984-1987 – San Diego Padres; 1988- Chicago Cubs; 1989- San Fran Giants & NY Yankees
1991- Texas Rangers; 1992-1993-Oakland A’s; 1994-Seattle Mariners
Inducted Baseball Hall of Fame: 2008
Career: ERA Wins Saves Innings Pitched
3.00 115 310 1809
9x All Star; 1978 AL Rolaids Relief Award; 1st AL Saves 1975 (26), 1978 (27), 1980 (33)
World Series Champion- NY Yankees – 1978
Goose Gossage was recently quoted after Yankee closer, Mariano Rivera, got his 500th career save saying that he feels Rivera is the greatest closer in both Yankee and MLB history. However, he points out that, “We weren’t closers. That word hadn’t been coined yet. We were relief pitchers. We did a job it now takes 3 guys to do. I don’t know who the greatest relief pitcher is because we did different jobs…People forget about what we used to do…I don’t mean to blow my own horn, but I had 310 of the other kind of saves and 115 wins as a reliever.”
Compiling a dream team from different eras presents an interesting case to evaluate players’ talents. And that is what sets baseball apart from other professional team sport leagues. For no other professional team sport celebrates its great players post-career quite like MLB.
While technology and better healthcare have had a tremendous impact on the longevity of players today, each generation offers something unique unto itself. However, as the game has changed, it cannot help but make us realize how much players of the past sacrificed and did without.
And let us not forget to continue to celebrate the game of baseball, in spite of its scandals, in spite of its dirty players or how mismanaged it may become.
Because without the fans, MLB will cease to exist, and all of those wonderful players of the past and the challenges they faced will become but a footnote in the history books.